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August 16, 2010 7:45 AM, EDT

PeopleNet Previews New Display Upgrade

‘Tablet’ Intended for Use Outside the Truck
By Dan Leone, Staff Reporter

This story appears in the Aug. 16 print edition of Transport Topics.

BOCA RATON, Fla. — PeopleNet unveiled here the first display upgrade for its mobile communication system since 2007, one intended for use outside a truck.

The display, called “Tablet,” borrows some of its design features, including a dimmable, touch-screen interface from its predecessor, BLU, which is intended only for inside the cab.

Tablet is “the most powerful in-cab computing device on the market today,” Matt Voda, PeopleNet’s vice president of product management, said during the company’s user conference here Aug. 10.

Tablet has a digital camera, a bar-code scanner and a stylus so drivers can collect digital signatures from consignees. Tablet also features Wi-Fi connectivity and runs on the Windows 7 operating system. BLU runs the older Windows CE system.

PeopleNet said that if a fleet doesn’t want the device removed from the truck, Tablet can be locked into its mount inside.

Tablet will launch in the first quarter of 2011, the company said, and current PeopleNet users will be able to upgrade at a discount.

PeopleNet is about a year behind Qualcomm Inc. in bringing a new Windows-based touch-screen display to market. Qualcomm introduced its MCP200 mobile computer in late 2009.

Neither Qualcomm, the biggest mobile communications provider in trucking, nor PeopleNet has migrated even a majority of its user base to its latest display hardware.

PeopleNet said that about 60,000 of its 100,000 or so customers are still using the company’s first-generation display, text-based Driver Terminal.

Most Qualcomm customers, by that company’s own estimate, are still running text-based OmniTracs.

“For a lot of these fleets, hardware is a sunk cost,” said David Mook, chief operating officer of TMW Systems. “They’re not looking to upgrade.”

TMW is a longtime partner of both Qualcomm and PeopleNet.

Also during the user conference, PeopleNet provided details about Vusion, a data aggregation and analysis subsidiary the company started up late last year.

Vusion is PeopleNet’s bid to break into a field that rival Qualcomm has been mining since 2008: predictive analytics.

Predictive analytics is intended to offer fleets prognostications about future driver and equipment performance based on past data.

However, Ron Konezny, CEO of PeopleNet, said the predictive component of Vusion’s analytics business “isn’t really there yet.”

But Vusion is already gathering and parsing data from such sources as fuel cards, engine control modules, mobile communications systems and dispatch software.

The intention is to give PeopleNet users a more in-depth look at the data their operations generate, even if the data are created by systems other than PeopleNet.

The company also announced the release of the third generation of PeopleNet Fleet Manager, its Web-based, back-end software for dispatchers, fleet managers and executives.

Fleet Manager 3.0 bolsters PeopleNet’s redundant data backup abilities. It is the first version of the software to feature “active/active” backup, which means carrier data bound for a crashed backup server will be rerouted to another server in real time.

The new Fleet Manager also adds French language capabilities. Spanish is on the way, PeopleNet said. The company also tweaked the software’s user interface, allowing carriers to limit access to certain features based on users’ job functions.

PeopleNet also announced a new trailer management integration with Par Logistics Management.

Par Logistics, part of publicly traded PAR Technology Corp., offers tracking for refrigerated and dry van trailers, in addition to temperature monitoring for reefers.

“We’ve had different forays over the years with trailers, [but] our PAR venture is definitely different,” Konezny said.